In the Mix Blog

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Data Visualization of Texas Women’s Health Online – National Women’s Health Week

To cap off National Women’s Health Week, Healthcake is releasing the results of a recent online study it conducted of women’s health concerns and the sources of insight they rely on for answers.

The research targeted a sample of 400 women between ages 18 and 54 who live in Texas. It revealed that 43% of women represented in the target sample are conducting health searches online at least once per month. They are hunting for explanations of symptoms, conditions and treatments in 57%, 38% and 24% of cases, respectively. This insight points to how a sudden symptom or a recent diagnosis is a familiar trigger of health inquiries online. Not surprisingly, doctors were the preferred source of information among 67% of respondents. Perhaps it’s more interesting to note that when asked about their preferred sources of information, 30% of women in the survey also responded “People like me” while 27% said nurses and 27% chose survivors. Among the topics respondents are interested in, some of the more commons ones were weight, pain, cancer, diabetes, depression and mental health.

Figure 1: Texas Women’s Health Online Data Visualization

TexasWomenHealthOnline2Source: TexasWomenHealthOnline-Visualization

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The 3 “e”s to Supercharging Your WoMO – Part 1

While WoMO is difficult to cultivate, investing time in a deliberate and consistent approach to what I call the 3 “e”s can supercharge your efforts. That is to say that empathy, engagement and empowerment are essential in attracting an online following. We will explore this in three parts. In the first one, let’s double-click on empathy to better appreciate what it is and what it is not.

Previously, I defined empathy as:

Having the ability to relate to others and perceive their feelings from their perspective instead of your own, commonly thought of as “walking in their shoes.” In order to empathize with your audience, you have to get to know them. Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience by actively listening to their stories and reflecting heavily on those stories.

There are several calls to action in there, but I’ll rephrase the first one as a question because it’s easy to miss: Do you have the ability to relate to others? Well aside from a formal psychiatric diagnosis, here are a few cautionary signs to look for:

  • You have a mandate to increase followers or friends on Facebook or Twitter or some other popular social network
  • You are conducting a lot of market research to better understand your target audience’s wants, needs and behavior
  • Your mission is short-term and success will be measured by short-term financial or commercial goals

These are all reasonable objectives but sometimes hyper focus on increasing them can actually subtract from empathy, the opposite of what you need to grow WoMO. Typically, on social networks, followers are attracted to great content that speaks to them and relates to them. Just be your authentic self in these forums and the right audience will find you instead of the other way around. That’s also why you should have to conduct very little research about your audience. In this case, build it and they will come makes sense, assuming you also develop effective mechanisms to share your content, which we will get to in part 3 of this series. It comes back to your mission…is it well-defined in terms that your audience understands? Even better, did you let your audience define your mission? Trying to build WoMO as a means of financial gain in and of itself will lead you to disappointing results. Your audience will spot a veiled self-interested campaign from many digital miles away, but if you listen to their signals and simply adopt their objectives as your mission, right away you would be relating to them.


Once you pass the litmus test of relate-ability, the next call to action is to “Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience.” Emphasis on real people. How else can you know “real people” unless you follow them? Where do they party? Where do they study? How do they eat? Who do they spend time with? What do they talk about and where do they talk about it? You might think this sounds a little stalker-paparazzi-like…because it is! Just don’t do anything illegal. Ideally, you already know some real people who you relate to and now you just want to blow that up from an N of a few to an N of large numbers of people, so you can interview those you know. Still, if you really don’t know for sure, then take a field trip. Grab a pen and paper (digital or physical, your choice), then go outside. Go anywhere there are people. Observe. Take notes. It helps to start with a hypothesis like “Our audience lives their days at Starbucks and their nights at art galleries…” Go to those places, listen to those around you and see if you’re right! Iterate.

Core to the idea that you empathize with your audience is one, having the ability to relate to them and two, getting to know real people who you believe are part of your audience and listen to their stories. If their stories sound like your’s, or your mission could have been copy/pasted from what you hear, then you’re on your way to cultivating empathy. You’ll find that your WoMO will take on a new life of its own too.

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“Set My People Free” : Did slavery drive African Americans crazy?

Reflecting on Martin Luther King Day, I think about the great progress that black people have achieved in a country where slavery has been abolished. Slavery in America began when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco without pay. Are black Americans still feeling the effects of slavery 396 years later?

I’d say yes and that’s why we wanted to launch a New Selma Party. The idea of the New Selma Party is to spotlight the new front in the fight for civil rights: health disparities among blacks.

According to the United States Census Bureau, black Americans have the lowest average household median income at $33,321 a year. This is behind Hispanics at $39K, Non-Hispanic Whites at $57K, and Asians at $68K. According to the National Poverty Center, poverty rates for blacks greatly exceed the national average. And poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. Studies show about 72 percent of black mothers are single compared to 29 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 53 percent for Hispanics, 66 percent for American Indian/Alaska native and 17 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander.

The link between poverty and mental health is well-known. Those with low incomes are more likely to suffer from poor mental health. Both individual and neighborhood economic deprivation increase the risk of poor general and mental health. In addition, those with mental health problems are more likely to experience poverty: once incapacitated, an individual’s socio-economic status is likely to fall further (‘selective social drift’). Complicating matters, mental health is often stigmatized in the black community. For example, research findings show that blacks, particularly black women, experience major depression at higher rates than whites, but seek treatment less often. A lack of adequate health care and ability to cover the costs can significantly contribute to low rates of the treatment of depression. Around 20 percent of black Americans  are uninsured compared to less than 12 percent of whites.

There seems to be a direct link between slavery and poverty among black Americans. There is also a link between poverty and mental health. Let’s use the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King to celebrate progress and start a new conversation about health disparities in America.

We call it the New Selma. Join the party and share your story.

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Four Types of People Living at the Healthcare Tipping Point

My eyes were glued on a series of research reports published by the Pew Research Center in 2013 and 2014. Since then, the Pew Internet: Health fact sheet has been published and I find myself equally intrigued like a feline attracted to catnip. A quick glance at the flurry of stats sprinkled throughout the page reveals a piping hot trend: healthcare is at a tipping point.

Sure Obamacare (a.k.a. Affordable Care Act) is nudging moms and pops to join insurance exchanges and there are seismic technological shifts giving rise to wearable tracking devices, often moonlighting as your smartphone. Yet, the tipping point I refer to in healthcare is one where we see the “30% barrier” being broken:

  • Fewer than 30% of Americans have yet to search for health information online. Conversely, over 70% already have.
  • Over 30% of adults who are age 50+ or living with multiple chronic diseases have used the Internet to search for health information.
  • 30% of people who had a serious health issue turned to non-medical sources for help.
  • Over 30% of U.S. adults say that at one time or another they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.
  • Over 30% of those who are tracking their health indicators are also sharing their records or notes with another person or group.

More than ever before, most Americans are one of four types of people – either e-Patient, e-Survivor, e-Caregiver or e-Supporter – increasingly using the Internet to search for health information online. Many are relying on non-medical sources and the knowledge shared by others to try to figure out a diagnosis before they go to a doctor. Healthcake is an online personal health assistant that brings health stories together from different sites based on a person’s health interests, making it less time-consuming to find quality content, ratings and reviews.

What type of e-person are you?